Seven Steps to Measure (and Manage) a SEO Agency

When we talk with clients about SEO, we spend most of our time unpicking various untruths promoted by SEOs to unsuspecting businesses. From the ‘you’ll never have to pay again to advertise’ (but you’ll need to pay me!) to the ‘you’ll be printing money’ (because you won’t be able to make real revenue).

We’ve already covered some of the pitfalls in our first two articles: never commit to a monthly SEO contract and 5 critical keys to managing your SEO supplier. These give you the groundwork to understanding SEO better.

In this article we now give you the ammunition to manage your SEO supplier (rather than them running rings around you).

Before we start… important note… to make this work you need analytics. We’re working on the assumption that you’d choose Google Analytics, but any analytics package which can measure visits and search terms for those visits will do.

In fact, even more importantly, do you like driving with a blindfold on? No? Then get some analytics and then look at it regularly, or just give up on your web marketing!

So, onto the job in hand… Steps 1-4 can be done before the SEO visits, steps 5-6 in negotiation to reach agreement.

Step 1: Measure Your Brand Visitors

Firstly, importantly, identify searchers for your brand or sub-brands, or people working for your business. for these two reasons:

  1. You will come top for this without ANY help from a SEO, and
  2. They are not ‘new’ business as they have heard about you before

Step 2: Measure Your Current Organic Traffic

Secondly, identify your latent organic web traffic – the number of searchers who are already visiting your website (this will be your total organic traffic minus brand searches from above).

Step 3: Value a Visitor

This is very easy if you’ve done any Pay Per Click (Adwords) marketing. If you spend on clicks you will, almost certainly know what the cost is of your average visitor, if not, then  estimate what a visitor is worth to you.

Step 4: Target Relevant Keywords

Using your analytics and through your own business knowledge, you will know what keywords and phrases are relevant to your business. You will also see from your current analytics that you do get a number of visits on rather spurious keywords. So concentrate on keywords which are relevant and are likely to bring in relevant visitors.

Step 5: Meet (Suitably Prepared) With Your SEO

So, when you go to meet your SEO, then you can have a proper discussion with them. Set the ground-rules:

  • All brand searches, past or future, are not a part of the SEO’s service, so when it comes to performance, these will not be included within the SEO’s measurements
  • Your current organic traffic is where you are today. Again, the SEO has not contributed so they need to improve on this and should be measured on the improvement over your current visits and not be given credit for your current ones
  • Any non-relevant keyword visits will be ignored as these are ancillary to the job in hand and a good SEO should be able to get you ranking for relevant phrases

Listen carefully to their reaction to these items. These are all fair, they won’t like it, but they are fair! And hear from them how they are going to go about gaining you extra traffic.

Step 6: Agree Targets with your SEO

You will then be able to give your SEO a target: tell them that your ‘break even’ SEO performance for you is their fee (almost certainly monthly) divided by your average cost per click.

For example, if they want to charge you £300 a month, and your cost per click estimate is £0.50 then they will need to give you 600 additional visits a month to break even in terms of performance.

If they cannot commit to this, then it speaks for itself: they are not able to deliver you enough traffic volume to cover their fees. Therefore they should not be appointed.

Step 7: Measure, Measure, Measure

We would support any SEO in two respects: firstly that improvements don’t happen immediately, and secondly that there’s no value in a ‘free lunch’ – you have to pay as you’re expecting them to work hard for this, probably harder than they do on most of their clients!

Tell your SEO that you will give them a three month trial to get to this target figure of monthly visitors from their work, and that you will pay them during this trial. If they achieve your target then you will continue working with them, if not then the trial is over.

Furthermore, tell them that once they’ve achieved this target you will be expecting further incremental improvements until they at least double this figure per month – because one of the myths of SEO is that your need to continue spending to maintain your rankings. This is barely true and only in a select few competitive business areas. If you cancel the contract, unless they have been using ‘black hat’ techniques, your ranking should be maintained.

As you measure your visits in analytics, you should start seeing improvements in SEO within a month and, even if your SEO doesn’t hit the full target, if they’re close then you should give them the benefit of the doubt… if they’re a long way short, either renegotiate until they hit the target or cancel.

In this way, you can manage your SEO rather than letting them run rings around you.


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